A festival in Barcelona airs a documentary about religious persecution in China. It tells the sad story of Sun Yi, one of the inmates of the Masanjia labour and re-education camp.
Religious persecution in China is one of the main themes of one of the most renowned European documentary festivals, DocsBarcelona.
In its 23rd edition, the exhibition has showed Letter from Masanjia as the opening piece. The film was aired through the Catalan public television (TV3), due to the excepcional situation of confinement.
The documentary recounts the traumatic experience of Sun Yi, a follower and practitioner of the Falun Gong religion, who in 2008 was arrested and imprisoned at the Masanjia Labor and Re-education Camp in Northeast China.
He stayed there for more than two years, until his release in 2010. Sun Yi says that the was systematically tortured, in order to make him deny his beliefs.
“They realised that I was not going to deny it and decided to hang me [by my arms and feet]. They had me hanging 24 hours a day. I was exhausted but couldn't sleep. When I fell asleep, my legs bent and my handcuffs nailed in my wrists”, explains Yi in the film.
After Yin's release in 2010, the situation in Masanjia Camp, which according to an article in The New York Times in June 2013 was composed mostly of members of Falun Gong and clandestine Christian churches, transcended internationally.
Julie Keith, a woman from Oregon (US), found one of the twenty letters written by Sun Yi himself, hidden in a package of halloween decoration product that was made by exploited Masanjia inmates.
“If by chance you bought this product, please send this letter to an organization that defends human rights. Thousands of people who are persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party will thank you and will always remember you”, the letter said.
Keith contacted a local media, which informed about it, and was followed by major television and newspaper networks in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Yi's story is not an isolated case in China. The Falun Gong have been persecuted by the Beijing government since 1999, when Jiang Zemin alerted agains the growth of a movement, which by then already had more than 70 million followers.
The regime has also been that hostile with other religious denominations in the country. This is the case of the Uighur Muslim population, whose children are separated from their families to be placed in re-education centers.
The Christian population in China is also exhaustively controled, with constant arrests, church closings and prohibitions. Through the Three Autonomies movement, the government is trying to increase the control over the functioning of the churches, forcing them to install video cameras and symbols of the Chinese Communist Party .
“The Chinese government wants all evangelical churches to be subject to the organisation of the Three Autonomies. If they don't subscribe to that, the authorities go after them”, a Chinese evangelical pastor living in Spain recently told Evangelical focus.
After his release, Sun Yi continued to be under pressure from the authorities. He was arrested again and his health worsened, so he decided to separate from his wife so as not to endanger her and went into exile in Indonesia.
There he received the visit of Keith, the American who had discovered one of his letters and had contacted the press to bring up the case of Masanjia.
“It is a story about the strength of the human spirit. Keith and Yi come from very different backgrounds but they have the same goal, which is to expose the atrocities in China and, through their efforts, change the course of history”, the director of the documentary, Leon Lee, points out.
Lee was in contact with Yi and taught him techniques to secretly record his reality in the Asian country.
Keith's visit was one of Yi's last experiences, because an alleged Chinese government spy in Indonesia contacted him shortly thereafter, and he ended up dying in mysterious circumstances from kidney failure.
“I would like to tell the world that there are millions of people in China who are victims of persecution", Yi says in the documentary.
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